“Where someone picks a fight with us, that gets a lot of attention.”
Reed Hastings, the founder and CEO of Netflix, has described the controversy over Netflix films appearing in Competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival as “fantastic for us”.
In a wide-ranging interview with Recode, Hastings said: “The two films, The Meyerowitz Stories and Okja, got in [to Cannes] on their own on artistic merit… they were just normal movies.
“But sometimes the establishment is clumsy when they try and shut out the insurgent and then the insurgent’s role is to play that up. Where someone picks a fight with us, that gets a lot of attention which then brings attention [to our films].
“[The Cannes row] has been fantastic for us, most importantly for Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories, which are small films and very artistic and they’ll get a lot more awareness.”
After French exhibitors complained about the inclusion of Netflix titles at the festival, Cannes said rules would be changed as of 2018 so that all films in competition were guaranteed a French theatrical release.
Hastings responded with a strongly worded Facebook post at the time that said: “The establishment closing ranks against us. See Okja on Netflix June 28th. Amazing film that theatre chains want to block us from entering into Cannes film festival competition.”
Hastings discussed this tension between streaming companies and cinema chains in the interview. “We’re in a transition period where the movie theatre chains around the world are not willing to allow consumers to choose, but eventually they will,” he said.
“So big movies will come out and they’ll be on Netflix and on Amazon… and also in theatres. If you want a communal experience with your friends, you’ll go to the theatre, just like you’d go to a restaurant even though you know how to cook.”
Future film strategy
Hastings also discussed their upcoming film strategy. “I think it’s fair to say we’ve been amazingly successful in series and we’re just getting started in movies,” he said.
“We’ve got movies like The Siege Of Jadotville that are much smaller but are very popular and we’ve got movies like Bright - with a really big budget and starring Will Smith [and] The Irishman; we’re trying to figure that one out with Martin Scorsese, which will out in two years and will be a really big movie.
“So we’re really in the high, middle and low end. We picked up lots of great movies in Sundance. We want films that everyone wants to watch that become cultural moments – that’s what you call a tentpole.”
He was also surprisingly candid about one of the big Netflix film failures - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2 didn’t get viewed by as many people relative to its big cost,” he said. “We haven’t had any significant misses on the series but that was one that we did.”